It’s the start of a new school year here in Spain and I’m busy sorting through my bag of tricks…
What is a bag of tricks?
A bag of tricks (BOT) is “a combination of items that could be used to help out in a sticky situation, solve a problem or respond to a need” (my personal definition.)
I’m a firm believer in a BOT for all occasions. Hence my “everyday BOT” (baby wipes, plasters, tweezers, hair band, glasses cleaning wipes, mosquito bite cream, lip balm…) my “camping BOT” (sellotape, matches, glue, puncture repair kit, corkscrew…) and of course my “classroom BOT” which I am never without, just in case…
What’s in my bag of tricks?
- A ball
- A bomb (from the game Pass the Bomb)
- A magic 8 ball
- A set of playing cards (I love my huge ones!)
- A set of ladders and paper clips
- A set of penalty shoot out cards
- A set of Rory’s StoryCubes
- A ball of wool
- A bell and a buzzer
- Vocabulary/Question box
- Post it notes
- Blank stickers
- Alphabet letters
- Stress cards
When do I use my bag of tricks?
Sticky situation #1: Fast finishers
- Pull out your vocabulary/question box and get students to “test” each other. Give students a set of ladders and paper clips or penalty shoot out cards to make it into a game.
- Give students some Rory’s story cubes and get them to invent a story
- Give students a ball of wool and get them to invent a story, ask and answer questions, test each other etc using the spider’s web activity
Promote student choice and allow fast finishers to choose their own item/activity
Sticky situation #2: Finished class ahead of schedule
Your students are on fire and things didn’t take as long as you expected. You’ve got 5/10 minutes left till the bell rings…
- Bring out the bomb to revise vocabulary/grammar structures. Students recall vocabulary, produce sentences using the target grammar… while passing the bomb around. Be careful, when it explodes you’re out!
- Give every student a card from a deck of cards. All those with an ace/a red card/a club… stand up/count to twenty backwards/ask a question/answer a question…
- Get out a bell and a buzzer. Divide the class in half and do a quick vocab revision activity
- Get out your magic 8 ball and have fun asking for its predictions…
- Take out your alphabet cards to revise vocab: 10 words beginning with (s)…
- Take out your stress cards and do an activity to practice word stress e.g Give students a stress card and say a word, the student who has the correct stress card holds it up or Put up the stress cards around the class and students run to the correct stress card…
Chances are they are so engaged they won’t even hear the bell ring!
Sticky situation #3: Technology lets you down
Your trusty BOT can even help you out when the internet stops working, the projector blows a bulb or the computer decides to give up the ghost. Having something up your sleeve to improvise with can help keep law and order in the classroom!
Shake it up: Create interest, arouse curiosity, engage students
As well as helping out in sticky situations, my classroom BOT also helps create interest and shake things up a bit. If things are a little flat in class it can spice things up and if things are too spicy it can calm things down! It depends on what you bring out of the bag and how you use it…
As well as solving a problem and shaking things up/calming things down, items from your BOT can obviously form part of your lesson plan. Throwing a ball, rolling dice, passing a bomb, unravelling a ball of wool, putting a sticker on your head can greatly increase interest and engagement in a vocab recalling/revising activity, question/answer session, grammar revision activity…
Encourage students to be creative
Give students any item from your BOT with an objective e.g revise family vocabulary. Individually, in groups or pairs students devise an activity using the item from the BOT to achieve the objective. They include the instructions, steps and any rules for the activity. They can then test out their activity on classmates and you have another classroom resource (completely student generated!)
So there you have it, a trusty BOT can help you out of any sticky situation and increase student engagement and creativity. The beauty of a BOT is that you can adapt virtually any activity to include an item from it.
I’m always looking for new items to add to my BOT and new ideas on how to use them… Have you got a bag of tricks? What’s in it? Feel free to share in the comments below 😉